What if corporate culture is against your work?

What is the bravest thing you’ve ever said? – asked the boy.

Help – said the horse.

And you? Have you ever been afraid of asking for help?

What type of situations lead you to have this kind of fear? With whom? Why is that different of other times when you are not afraid to ask for help?

In general, this kind of fear appears when it’s a lack of trust. We are not sure what consequences could have if we show up our vulnerabilities. As a result we can hardly be ourselves and therefore we can’t unleash our full potential. Since our energy is focused on protecting us we won’t be willing to explore new things, take risks or even disagree with others. Then, asking for help could be the bravest thing you ever do.

Asking for help could be the bravest thing you ever do.

Talking about work, this is very related to the culture of our company. High siloed organizations, where office politics take a lot of time and people compete against their own workmates to get visibility have usually a lot of problems when the going gets tough and another way of working is needed.

Sure we can think of many examples of companies where the lack of trust was a common feeling across the whole organization with a lot of bad consequences:

Everybody plays not to lose instead of playing to win.

Nobody takes responsibility: the time to make decisions shoots up.

People wait to be told what to do, because creativity and own decision making usually imply taking risks and they can’t afford that. Called it fear.

People care about their boss or their colleagues instead of taking care of the customers or stakeholders.

There’s no easy cooperation between different teams: rules need to be set first (who will take the credit, who will be in charge…) and a lot of time is wasted before going into work.

Customers are not in the centre nor is the business; a lot of energy is wasted dealing with unproductive internal affairs.

The result is a lack of competitiveness and results. These days we cannot afford this way of working if we want to survive as a team, organization or company.

What can we do if we are leading in this type of environment?

If you want to change the culture, you cannot do it alone. Culture is not about the way of working. Culture is what your employees think and belief when nobody is watching. It has to do with the beliefs they have about the organization, common behaviours, previous history and recent experiences.

The best way for changing is leading by example.

But, generally speaking, the best way for changing is leading by example (and of course don’t be naive: you may need some support). Behave the way you want your people to behave:

Establish the vision: desired behaviours, expected results.

Trust your team. Take risks.

Make decisions and commit to them, even if you fail. Specially if you fail.

Encourage other to make decisions. And support them if they fail.

Ask for help and recognize others’ contribution to your work.

Take your responsibility and ask for responsibility (not blame). Don’t put excuses.

Attitude follows behaviour, never the other way round.

If you want to build trust, begin by showing trust yourself. No one follows those who only talk. Remember trust is the only sea where you can navigate a change of culture.

What do you think? Could it work?